My Pelham Parkway—an Old Friend Fades Away



Neighborhood: Bronx

My first encounter with the Pelham Parkway neighborhood took place in my mid-teens, around 1970, when my grandparents moved to a building at Lydig and Wallace. Most of the Jews in the Bronx were moving to Co-op City or the suburbs, but Pelham Parkway was very likely the last of the old-fashioned Jewish immigrant neighborhoods in the borough.

By that time, most of the residents were seniors, but you still had a good number of families and a few young single people. Jewish refugees from what was still the Soviet Union were also moving in.

The area was characterized by huge 1920s apartment houses with courtyards and a few private houses here and there. The main shopping streets, White Plains Road and Lydig Avenue, had many old-fashioned stores that warmed the heart of my parents and others in the older generation – a bakery where one could buy black-and-white cookies and hamentaschen, the Zion Kosher Delicatessen; and a dairy restaurant that served blintzes and noodles-and-cheese. White Plains Road had a small musical instrument store, a big plus for aspiring young rock musicians like me, the spacious Six Brothers diner where my grandfather used to take us for lunch, and a tiny mom-and-pop health food store that had nothing in common with the chains that later dominated the industry.

Pelham Parkway itself was the area’s main attraction, a green ribbon through the neighborhood. The parkway was anchored by the subway station, two gigantic synagogues, and Bronx House, a big community center with a swimming pool. In the summer, you saw hundreds of seniors on the benches.

Grandpa died in ’76, Grandma in ’77. I thought of moving into their apartment after she passed away, but at the time, I was working only part-time and couldn’t afford the rent. And in my early 20s, I knew nothing about leases, rent increases, or the fact that you couldn’t just move into a relative’s apartment as if you owned the place.

After that, however, I still found myself in the area a few times a year. My visits increased after 1980, when I met Mike Tannenbaum, a young guy my age who was an electronic-music freak, a stereo and computer whiz, and a brilliant science-fiction writer. He lived on Barnes Avenue with a roommate who soon moved out.

Mike told me that one of the other tenants, a woman in her 90s, was one of the building’s original tenants from 1927. “At that time, there wasn’t much but trees and grass around here,” he said. “She decided to move here because her other choice, the Concourse, was only for rich people!” We had a good laugh, since the Concourse was very rundown in the ’80s.

Because Mike lived in the North Bronx, he was somewhat isolated from his peers. In his apartment, however, he was king. He had two computers when most people didn’t even have one, two VCRs, a huge fish tank, and thousands of dollars worth of stereo equipment. When a would-be-girlfriend rejected him, he consoled himself by saying, “She doesn’t know a damn thing about stereo!”

Throughout the 1980s, I kept visiting the Pelham Parkway area from time to time. The neighborhood was like an old friend that didn’t change much, even though it was becoming a little rundown around the edges. I had fights with friends (including Mike, who became enraged when I bought a stereo without asking for his advice), problems on the job, and breakups with girlfriends. But Pelham Parkway was still Pelham Parkway.

After I got married in ’95, I took fewer walks around the city. A few years later, my wife suggested we take a trip to the Bronx Zoo. After walking around the zoo and having a great time, we came out on the White Plains Road side. I eagerly took her on a walk, but to my shock, Pelham Parkway was no longer my Pelham Parkway.

On Lydig Avenue, Olinsky’s supermarket and Carvel were gone. Several Albanian social clubs, food stores, real estate offices and coffee shops had moved in. While I definitely have nothing whatsoever against Albanians, it made me sad to realize that people like myself, the grandson of Russian-Jewish immigrants, were now a small minority.

Walking over to White Plains Road, I found it dominated by big 99-cent stores with displays spilling onto the sidewalk and generic chain stores. The corner diner on the north side of the parkway had become a Dunkin’ Donuts, and the Six Brothers diner on the south side was gone. The tiny health-food store had disappeared, and although there was a GNC on the street, it wasn’t the same.

We eventually found a small coffee shop with wooden tables and a limited menu. Most of the customers were shabbily-dressed older people who had been sitting there for hours, talking to each other and watching the overhead TV set. You could tell this was the highlight of their day. We vowed that the next time we went to the zoo, we would leave on the side nearer to Arthur Avenue, which had good Italian restaurants.

Today, I have a more balanced view of Pelham Parkway. The neighborhood as it once existed failed to hold most of its children and grandchildren – probably because it is so far from Manhattan. Mike Tannenbaum had confidently predicted that the parkway itself would make the neighborhood “hip” in the same way Prospect Park spurred gentrification in Park Slope. He was wrong.

Today’s Pelham Parkway, rather than being the province of one ethnic group, as it was in the old days, is extremely diverse. You see Albanians, Russian Jews, Pakistanis, Latinos, Arabs and even one or two Hasidim. Many, if not most, are immigrants, just as most of the people who originally moved into the neighborhood in the 1920s were immigrants. The people are busy living their lives, having their dreams. They’re making their own memories, which will be as important to them as my memories of sitting on the couch with Mike Tannenbaum while listening to The Who, Yes or Kraftwerk are to me.

It’s no longer my Pelham Parkway, but it’s still Pelham Parkway. And the next time we go to the zoo – I’m sorry, but we’ll still opt for those Arthur Avenue Italian restaurants!

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§ 20 Responses to “My Pelham Parkway—an Old Friend Fades Away”

  • Meyer Falik says:

    Very interesting piece. Well ours was a bit different. I grew up in Edenwald Projects, I used to walk to Pelham Parkway because there were more Jewish kids to hang out with there. I married a girl I met in Co-Op cityafter we moved there. We moved into Pelham Parkway and lived on Matthews Ave. After we had our third child we moved to Israel. On trips back we visit the Old Neighborhood to see how much it has changed.

  • Nina Talbot says:

    My grandparents also lived in the Pelham Parkway neighborhood on Brady Avenue off White Plains Road. When I was five years old, my parents, me and my sister lived with them until we had our own apartment. I remember once running away from my grandfather in Bronx Park because of some argument about my sister, who was one year old at the time, and in her stroller. I managed to get far away enough that I was thought to be lost, but I knew the neighborhood well, and walked around until I lost some steam and found my way home. Naturally everyone was in an uproar, and my poor grandfather was beside himself. My mother had called the police to say that I was home, and they could call off their search. That is one of my profound memories from Pelham Parkway, but I also remember the stores on Lydig Avenue where I would shop with my grandmother.

    Decades later, I got a job teaching art in the local public school (where my mother and her sister attended). Although I lived in South Brooklyn, almost an hour and a half by subway to the job, I was so happy to be in the old neighborhood. And the diversity that you speak of was apparent by virtue of the student population- as you wrote, many Albanian students, as well as others from that part of the world, Latinos and many other groups.

    Yes, the old neighborhood HAS changed, but it still has a very neighborhood-y residential feel, and one still sees people sitting on the benches on Pelham Parkway. Your article made me feel nostalgic, and a bit sad, as my grandparents also passed away some time ago, and I still miss them. And I feel guilty to this day having put my grandfather through such a scare.

    Great article! Thank you.

  • June Greco says:

    I found myself sitting at my desk at work here in Indiana. Trying to find a picture of what a NY Gyro would actually look like to show my friends. Having just gotten one from a food truck here, I was a bit disappointed and thought I should show them all what it should look like. I stumbled upon your story trying to look up Six Brothers Restureant.

    You could imagine how shocked I was to find that it is no longer there.

    I grew up on Cruger Avenue , right across form the school yard. My G
    rand Father lived on the Other side of Lydig Avenue on Cruger as well. I remember All the wonderful things that came along with growing up in my neighborhood. Times have surely changed and yes, It is now someone else’s kind of neighborhood.

    Found my First love , he lived on Matthews Ave. I remember hanging out on Lydig Avenue . . .all of the kids in the neighborhood had their own group of friends that hung on each street. We walked the elderly home with their groceries and we could walk the streets at any hour and be safe.
    Lydig Avenue was a vision in the summer and I remember having to walk through the maze of people shopping and visiting on the sidewalk, just to get where I was heading.

    I could go on and on about my life in the Pelham Parkway area. .

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane. . . You have brought a bit of my childhood back into my heart that has faded with age.

  • Tommy Forray says:

    Hi….I lived on Wallace and Lydig and grew up in the neighborhood from 1948 to 1970 when I left. Ar that time the neighborhood was probably 97% Jewish. It was bordered by two Italian neighborhoods ; Morris Park area on one side , and Allerton Avenue on another. The Parkway ran to Orchard Beach and City Island. The neighborhood was full of European Jews and many Holocaust immigrants. It was a shopping and social mecca. All manner of European languages were heard on the streets. Jewish deli’s , candy stores/lunchonettes, the Pelham and Globe movie theaters , bakeries , pizza places , Kosher meat stores , grocery and fruit stands , etc. lined Lydig Avenue. Everyone knew everyone in the neighborhood. It was like a small town or village. Tons of kids grew up there. I went to P S. 105…later P.S. 83…then Christopher Columbus High School…and after that Hunter College. I grew and played ; lived and loved there. I hung out as a teen in the pool room , Milton’s nightclub, and The Wall on the Parkway with friends. My friends and I were teens who went through the social upheaval and the Renaissance that was the 60’s in the neighborhood. Eventually , having hit our early twenties , most of the kids left the neighborhood for colleges around the country. The neighborhood changed after that and went through metamorphoses as described by writers above. I experienced the neighborhood during a golden time of extraordinary peace , safety , growth and change. What an incredible place….

  • Stu Chimkin says:

    All the articles were like a time lapse for me. What great memories. Yes the neighborhood has changed, it’s no longer the same, but the memories will last forever.

  • Ann Chilowicz Sorger says:

    I moved to Pelham Pkwy when I was 11 years old. My parents were holocaust survivors and I also was an immigrant. Pelham Pkwy was such a safe place to grow up it. That was so important to my holocaust survivor parents. We were all accepted by everyone. It was like a small village where everyone looked after everyone else. I have amazing and fond memories. It will always be in my heart. Thank you for sharing. I couldn’t have said it close to what you guys shared!

  • Marc Falk says:

    The greatest area to grow up, so many good times, a unique area. I remember you Tommy, you hung out with my brother Lenny

  • so the story goes…from say 1880’s to 1920’s or so gypsies camped and lived on Pelham Parkway and Saturdays was wash day carting their dirty laundry to the Bronx river…i said as the story goes

  • Barbara Romm says:

    Just loved everything about this, the best neighborhood,
    The best friends and the best of times….

  • Abe Peck says:

    I grew up Jewish at Holland and Lydig before many who’ve posted. Moved to the hippie East Village, Chicago, San Francisco, Chicago and now Santa Barbara. Mostly fond memories of a shtetl where immigrants could send their kids to college—and for many newbies, that dream likely remains. I continue to edit magazines, and have learned that one of my writers, Korean-American, now lives a block from where I grew up—in what’s now a coop! Maybe the drummer is different but the beat goes on.

  • Tsmith says:

    Does anyone remember the name of the small musical instrument store on white plains rd just around the corner from the globe theater?
    It was on the west side of the street just across from the diner that had a sign in the window saying ‘breakfast nooks’

  • steve k morrison says:

    I moved to Pelham Parkway in 1965 . It was exactly as you pictured it. Great memories for sure. I still go back every 3 months . My dentist of the last 35 years is still there. Like all great things of the past time moves on but a part of me will always remember what it was like to grow up on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx and how great the Bronx was and how lucky i was to grow up in such a special place.

  • Sheryl Stebel says:

    What a wonderful site to walk down memory lane with. I lived on Barnes Avenue and went to P.S. 105, Junior High 127 and Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx. I moved out when I married in 1979 to Queens where it seemed like the country at the time. I still live there to this day.

    Pelham Parkway was a safe and wonderful community to grow up in. Everyone knew each other. When the blackout hit in 1965, I was lost in the street (mom and sister were in Manhattan visiting a sick relative) and a neighbor who I did not know took me in. Still have so many fond memories of friends, teachers, neighbors and of course my grandparents w ho lived on the floor below us.

  • Hal Schlesinger says:

    I will try to recall all the wonderful things I remember about my neighborhood on Lydig Avenue. I lived there on Matthews Avenue from birth until I was 12 years old. I went to PS 105. These are the stores I remember… two Jewish delicatessens, Sonny’s and the Zion. Marty’s meat market, Ben’s Hardware (I’m sure I have keys with their name), Gloria Pizza, Bib’s and Sam’s Luncheonette, Lillian’s market, Joe’s Barber Shop, Olynski’s Supermarket. Young Israel too. I had a friend who lived up the hill off the east end of Lydig. I can remember some names of friends, David Lacks, Steven Hass, Clifford Schneider, Helene Shriner. But the memory is fading. Oh, and there was Bronx House run by Rose Stockhammer.

  • cory lappin says:

    OK don’t know where to start, or even how to, I moved to pelham pkwy. in the late 60’s from another Bronx neighborhood. I had never seen a hippie before moving to pelham pkwy; I was just reading from this article someone saying they didn’t hear about drugs in the neighborhood; that person lived a very sheltered life. Pelham Pkwy and White Plains Rd was know as the WALL, all I seen was hippies and I must say it was a very interesting hang out. Right on the corner was Chock full of Nuts, AWESOME; we did have every type of store to shop from for food, clothing, head shops, the deli and the bakeries were the best. The deliss, WE HAD THE PALACE, until 250 people got food poisoning and they were gone, Sonny’s deli on Lydig EXCELLENT, ZION, also Lydig and Holland, and last the Pelham Mall deli on White Plains. Rd. Bakeries, lets just say if i remember correctly 4 of them; clothing stores, Craig Scott, both sides on Lydig, Fox Mens Sear, Nat pProspect, these two were for the wise guys. There were more but I am somewhat burnt out, that’s where the drugs came in LOL. This might give a clue who i am, the crew of guys I hung out with are from 105 school yd. GREAT bunch of guys. That took place in the 70s. I can’t leave out the pizza shops THE CAPRI, Lydig JIMMY’S & MARIES , GLORIA’S. Some years later they opened a Jewish pizza place on Cruger and Lydig. Here we are in 2023 and I still live here in Pelham Pkwy. Let me say it like this, Pelham Pkwy is a CESSPOOL, it does make me sick to my stomach every time I leave my house to see the scum that lives here, PLEASE do not wonder why I am still here, because I do not know the answer. Well I’ll end it here and say this, if you ever think about revisiting this area, LEAVE YOUR KIDS HOME, oh yeah leave your wallets in the car.

  • Michael Belle says:

    Nice article. I’ve only been here since 2010. I do remember chock-full nuts from when I would visit as a child. Very quite where I’m at off of the 5 train.

  • Larry S. says:

    I love the memories. I lived at 2300 Bronx Park East and attended PS 96. I loved going to Penrod’s for school supplies on Lydig Avenue and going to Levine’s Deli around the corner. I remember going with my grandfather to the hardware store on Lydig. I met my wife in college in Albany NY and found out she grew up 1 mile from me on Neill Avenue in Morris Park and we shared the same neighborhood and shared each other’s stories.

  • Olivia says:

    Does anyone remember the name of the jewelry store on White Plains Road near Craig Scott’s?

  • Ed G says:

    The jewelry store was Bara’s.

  • Mark says:

    I grew up in the Pelham Parkway Projects. Fond memories. Regarding Lydig ave, the Chinese restaurant closer to White Plains Rd. The owner’s name was Harry! Hard to find Chinese like that today. My crew would cross over in the summer and jump a fence to go swimming at one of the building, I think on Matthews. The super would chase us out.My mother played Bingo down from Lydig on White Plains Rd. Sneaking into the Globe to see those wonderful “documentaries”!!
    Up the rd, Joe Tuckmans. White Castles. Kids had nothing to fear in the streets back then, a bit different now.

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